MMC’s digital revolution
By Robert Cloud
They call themselves “Team Awesome.”
A group of marketing and IT staff are changing how Multi Media Channels delivers local content and promotes local business.
Since acquiring Journal Community Publishing Group’s weekly publications in northern and central Wisconsin in December 2012, MMC has continued to expand its media footprint.
In 2014, MMC purchased newspapers in Merrill, Antigo and Stevens Point.
Another key development has been the introduction of the hybrid newspaper, which adds local news content to weekly shoppers.
Called the “silver bullet” strategy, MMC newspapers are printed weekly and delivered to more than 200,000 homes in central Wisconsin, but provide daily news online.
“We’re platform agnostic,” according to Nick Wood, MMC’s director of content and digital. “We’re a content company. However, you want the news, we don’t care. Print, online, digital – it’s all the hyper-local content that you can’t get anywhere else.”
Wood noted that the websites are not only daily news sources, they provide photo galleries and videos.
MMC currently operates websites that provide news for communities in Waupaca County, Stevens Point, Wisconsin Rapids, Marshfield, Rhinelander, Antigo, Merrill and Wausau.
In the month of June, MMC’s eight news websites reached a total of 245,401 unique visitors and 837,147 sessions.
The company’s top performing website, Waupaca County News, drew 81,921 unique visitors, 207,178 sessions and 390,612 page views, according to Google Analytics.
“Our’s is a contrarian strategy,” Wood said, noting that while other newspapers have been cutting back on their local reporters, MMC is hiring editors and reporters to cover more communities.
“We’re investing more in local content and news,” Wood said.
Although print still remains the advertising powerhouse for local businesses, providing online content generates “a lot of eyeballs,” Wood said.
“Having those eyeballs allows us to leverage our digital audience for local businesses to get their messages out to a new generation,” Wood said.
“The beauty of digital is that we can reach beyond our local footprint,” said Jamie Schroeder, MMC’s director of digital sales. “Digital advertising opens doors to reach larger audiences for a reasonable cost. Before, only larger, big-box companies could afford the budget for hundreds of thousands of impressions.”
Digital advertising also allows MMC to help local businesses reach their target audience with the right mix of online and print advertising.
Schroeder said MMC gathers information about its client’s customers – age, gender, household income, personal interests, geographic location – then builds an advertising strategy that effectively reaches that audience.
“The audiences of print and digital are not identical. They don’t overlap,” Schroeder said. “Businesses want to be on as many platforms as possible.”
Raymond Sartler was recently hired to help develop digital marketing campaigns for MMC’s clients.
“I provide reports and analytics to manage and optimize Google Ad Word campaigns,” Sartler said.
In addition to the impressions ads posted on the community websites generate, banner ads can be distributed on websites nationally.
For example, if a visitor to a website clicks on a local car dealer’s ad, variations of that ad will follow the reader to other sites.
“We can target people who have already shown an interest,” Sartler said.
Schroeder said digital advertising can also “geofence” a location and send ads to the digital devices of anyone who enters or leaves a targeted area.
“An auto dealer can target potential customers who are on another dealer’s lot by geofencing,” Schroeder said. “We can serve ads to Anyone who is inside that invisible fence with a mobile device.”
MMC’s Team Awesome not only puts together digital marketing campaigns, they are building websites that allow businesses to sell their products online.
Chain Bar and Grill’s website is an example of their work.
Designed by Joseph Ruano and Jarred Miles, two developers with MMC, the Chain Bar’s website was custom designed by Team Awesome to allow customers to order their meals online and to print out the order ticket in the kitchen.
“Our team does a lot of things you don’t normally see small IT teams do,” said Tommy Doyle, MMC’s director of IT. “We developed the majority of the technology from the ground up for the online ordering system.”
“Their website needed special software to handle the receipt printer for the kitchen from online orders,” said Victor Dettlaff, MMC’s lead software engineer. “I wrote the software and some of the database manipulations in order to get the reporting for that.”
Doyle and Detlaff began working together at Heart Steps in 2007. Later, they began developing video games.
In 2013, Doyle met Nick Wood for lunch at a local restaurant to discuss Doyle’s start up company, Astroswag, which developed digital signage for bars and restaurants.
The friendly conversation became a job interview.
“I was about two craft beers in when we started doing the interview,” Doyle said.
Team Awesome is almost ready to launch a new ad manager system to use for its own websites, as well as a product MMC can sell to other publishers.
They are also developing a kayaking video game for the Nicolet Coffee Company, an ecommerce site owned by MMC.
“I think it’s amazing how much we’ve accomplished in three years,” Doyle said. “We brought our company’s technology up to the point where we can extend a hand to other local companies to help bring their technology up to the same level.”